The security forces in Saudi Arabia have carried out a nationwide dragnet in recent months that resulted in the arrest of more than 400 people believed to be connected to the Islamic State jihadist group, the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
The people who were arrested were linked to recent attacks inside the kingdom; they planned attacks or monitored potential targets, or used social media to spread extremist ideology and entice new recruits, the Interior Ministry said.
The high number of arrests highlights the profound fears inside the conservative, oil-rich kingdom that the jihadists who control territory in nearby
Syria will sow further
trouble inside ,
as the militants’ leaders have vowed to do. Saudi Arabia
For its part, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has condemned the kingdom’s hereditary monarchy and called on its supporters to carry out attacks. This year, it has claimed a number of deadly bombings at Shiite mosques in eastern
as well as other smaller attacks. A suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a
Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia
last month, killing more than two dozen people, was a Saudi citizen. Kuwait
On Thursday, the Islamic State claimed a car-bomb attackon a checkpoint near a high-security prison in
, the Saudi capital,
that killed the driver and wounded two security officers. Riyadh
“Whoever is behind ISIS wants to create chaos in
said Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. “They want
to create the same situation we are seeing in other Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia Libya, Syria
and .” Iraq
In statements published by the Saudi state news agency and elaborated upon by General Turki, in a phone interview, the Interior Ministry described a scattered Islamic State infrastructure inside the kingdom with cells directed by the group’s leaders abroad but operating independently from one another.
“They are made up of cells,” General Turki said. “Each has something that they do, and they are not aware of the others.”
Of the 431 people arrested so far, a small number were detained after a deadly shootingat a Shiite mosque in eastern
in November. But most
of the rest had been picked up in recent weeks, General Turki said. Saudi Arabia
While most of those arrested were Saudi citizens, the detainees included Yemenis, Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Algerians, Nigerians and others, the Interior Ministry said. The cells carried out different activities, and members were involved with planning attacks, acquiring arms, building explosives, scouting targets and sheltering and transporting suicide bombers.
Of those arrested, 144 were involved in social media activism, the Interior Ministry said, which included spreading radical ideas and recruiting new members.
Thirty-seven security officers and civilians were killed in the crackdown, the ministry said, as well as six suspected militants.
The Interior Ministry said the arrests had foiled a number of plots, including plans to target diplomatic missions, assassinate Saudi security officers and bomb mosques in eastern
. In April, Saudi Arabia reported that 93
people suspected of having ties to the Islamic State had been arrested. Saudi Arabia